Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT is unimpressed with some local authorities sitting on devolution funds which are supposed to fund development projects meant to improve the people’s lives.
Nkayi Rural District Council (RDC) in Matabeleland North province is one such council which has failed to deliver as expected despite receiving devolution funds.
The council received $7 million between December and July this year but $2 million has not been used and concerns have been raised that the money is losing value while development is stalling.
The principle of devolution is spelt out in the Constitution that was adopted in 2013, although its implementation began in earnest with the coming in of the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa.
This year, the Government has set aside $2,9 billion for local authorities, although disbursement was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Treasury has so far released approximately $290 million to local authorities.
Government allocated the funds to be shared among the 10 provinces based on a number of factors such as poverty levels, quality of infrastructure and the population.
The devolution programme is meant to drive individual provinces to develop critical infrastructure that can create a conducive environment for economic empowerment of local communities and increase the contribution to national development.
Provinces decide the projects to be implemented guided by the need to maximise on exploitation of local resources.
Local Government and Public Works Deputy Minister Marian Chombo on Thursday and Friday toured Nkayi to assess the implementation of devolution projects in the area.
Five percent of the national budget is released to local authorities so that they implement devolution projects.
Nkayi RDC was expected to build two clinics and drill a borehole to benefit the community but instead the council drilled the borehole inside its offices depriving the community of access to water.
The clinic construction projects are just starting.
Deputy Minister Chombo said councils should implement projects as soon as they receive funds and Government was not happy with progress on Nkayi projects.
“Right now, in Nkayi we discovered that there is money that was allocated by Government and has not been used. It is losing value each and every day so we are urging the local authorities to use the devolution
funds expeditiously. They got about $7 million some of it they got it last year in December and the second disbursement was in July,” said Deputy Minister Chombo.
“We went on a tour of the projects that are being undertaken and we are not happy because most of the projects were started two months ago and they still have a lot of money that they haven’t utilised. They have about $2 million still sitting in the bank and is losing value. We are not happy at the rate they are utilising the money.”
She said as a result Nkayi will not be receiving funds from Government until they utilise and account for already disbursed money.
Deputy Minister Chombo said devolution funds should be used for the benefit of communities in line with Government’s thrust of providing services.
“Right now, we have the five percent devolution funds that we are hoping they will use to address the problems on service delivery such as provision of water, health care and other such services. We are therefore urging the local authorities to use the funds they are given to implement these people’s projects,”said Deputy Minister Chombo.
The tour was also attended by Ministry of Local Government and Public Works chief director responsible for rural local authorities Mr Christopher Shumba.
Mr Shumba said several local authorities in Matabeleland North were dragging their feet when it comes to implementing of devolution projects.
He said soon the Ministry will be visiting Umguza RDC and Kusile RDC.
“There is dragging of feet by many councils and this council is one of them. The local MPs were the first to complain, they don’t think that what is coming to Nkayi is being used properly. They are not happy and when we met councillors, they were equally not happy,” he said.
“If they (council) don’t use money on time they will have serious problems because when we gave them the money, they indicated that they had budgeted for it, procurement processes had already been done. Our visit to councils is meant to assess how funds are being used guided by the specific list of projects submitted by the respective councils.”
Mr Shumba said the ministry will religiously follow councils to ensure that they implement devolution projects.
“Government officials who attend council meetings are meant to monitor council activities and report back to Government because councils are receiving funds from Government. Government naturally has an interest in councils and wants to ensure funds are accounted for and projects move with the kind of speed that Government is expecting. We don’t want any single council to lag behind,” said Mr Shumba. — @nqotshili